Here we discuss live rock and reef tank aquascapes.
Arranging your live rock or rock aquascape can be easier
than you think. Your live rock or rock aquascape is
literally the very foundation of your reef tank.
Of course, much of what looks good will be
determined by the shapes of your particular
pieces of rocks. Check each piece of rock for
special features you may want to show off to
make sure they are exposed when you design
your aquascape ... a hole, or cranny you
may want facing the viewer.
From a construction standpoint, I have never
used putty to hold rocks together, but instead
am very precise and careful about wedging rocks
together in a way to withstand an earthquake,
since I am originally a California aquarist.
I have considered drilling and pegging together
pieces, but in reality, with nothing but your
hands, and careful secure wedging you can build
a spectacular aquascape with no special tools
or materials, save your imagination.
Most folks want to have a live rock reef tank
aquascape that in some way resembles a natural
environment. Except for the occasional 8-ball wingnut
that likes a tire, boot, beer can, a handgun and
a sunken duck decoy to make it exactly realistic
for some places, the most important thing to
remember is to not get in a tizzy over it.
After you put corals in a tank, and they
grow, it completely changes the look you
created anyway, and then you'll want
to change it again!
Try to do as much rearranging as possible
BEFORE you start putting animals in.
Design an aquascape and study it for a
couple of days, imagining which corals will
go where. Change the layout, make
improvements and watch it for a couple
of more days. Repeat.
Try hard to settle on an aquascape you
really like before you put any livestock in.
Take your time and try several
arrangements, as you get
better with practice.
Remember, there is every kind of rock and
rock pile imaginable out there somewhere.
And some you would swear couldn't be real.
And then a storm comes along and rearranges it all.
There is no right or wrong.
There are several very important functions the
aquascape performs for us that are worth considering.
First, our concern is in making an aesthetic
background, which also importantly consists of
hiding the equipment. Then we must provide a
substrate to place corals on if it is a reef tank.
And, the arrangement needs to present our
animals well and properly with a good habitat.
The most important function of the aquascape
is habitat, the environment. The creation of
places for corals, and nooks, crannies, caves,
and holes that the fish will use as territory
borders and "escape" hatches. The more
of them you have, the more the fish are out.
Part of the choice for what type of aquascape
will work best is determined by what you intend
to keep. If you want a whole bunch of little,
tiny reef fish with inverts and corals, then
what I call a wall, a terrace, or a mound
is excellent. If you are mostly keeping fish,
leaving a large open swimming area
with a column or two may be best.
Another important aspect to consider is
how the tank is going to be viewed.
From three or four sides or one or two?
From close or far, from above or below eye-level?
And, if a coral tank, there has to be 6" to a
foot or more of space above the top of the
rockwork for room for the high-light corals.
Remember, whatever you do, everyone that
doesn't keep a tank will be blown away by
anything you come up with, while all
you will see is that new spot of algae.
Remember too, water flow is very important and
a wall of live rock breaks it up quite a bit.
You may need an additional power head blowing into
or through your terrace or mound to ensure
good full and complete circulation.
You don't want debris collecting in a
place you can't see or get to.
Below are some basic 101 ideas in pictures to
give you enough of an idea to make a better
one yourself. Just enough to tickle your
creative neurons. Remember, one person's
rock pile is another person's monument.
These aquascapes are all made with the same
pile of 12 pieces of select dry base rock, weighing
in at 43 pounds. We've done it dry to hopefully
show them better on a sand covered board for
illustrative purposes. Most of the full
width arrangements are about 24" across
and a foot tall.
43 pounds of select dry base rock
I call the basic types the wall, the mound,
the terrace, the column, and the ampitheatre.
Engineers will of course go for the bridge and
arch, which is extremely dangerous but do-able,
for those who like to live on the edge and
are not in earthquake country.
The mound and terrace are great for lots of
places to put corals. They give lots of surface
area for placing things, while creating lots
of holes, nooks and crannies.
They take up floor space and leave
only a little around the edges.
mound - above
mound - front
The mound is great for tanks viewed
from 3 or 4 sides. It gives a tremendous
bunch of fish hiding places in its base,
and tons of places on which to put things.
The Terrace is a series of steps, each one higher
toward the rear. Place short things up front and taller
items at back. Allow an area of sand at front for
sand level corals and clams, etc.
terrace - top
terrace - front
The wall and ampitheatre are taller and
narrower, with places for placing corals on top,
and if carefully done, on the wall itself.
They leave a good amount of open floor
space for bottom type corals like tongue,
plate, or elegance, and clams and such.
wall - top
If careful while building it, you can place a
thin shelf type piece that projects out enough
to put a coral on as long as there is enough
weight on the part in the wall to hold it down.
Then you can put a less light-loving
coral under it too.
ampitheatre - front
The ampitheatre is really just sort of a
semi-circle, this version is centered, but it can
be started at the front and go to half way
across the back for a completely
ampitheatre - from above
A column is a pile of rocks built upward.
The column is best for a larger fish display
as it gives the most open swimming area.
Build it so there are lots of flattish places to
use as shelves that you can place things on.
column - from above
I wasn't going to even show it lest anyone get
any wild ideas, but here is a lightweight minor
bridge or two. Even the weakest looking one,
such as this, has a certain visual appeal
that is hard to resist.
Just remember how strong a snail or anemone
is and use big heavy rocks. We take no
responsibility for any damages you may incur
with such a crazy design.
Wedge everything together triple good.
This is no time for a house of cards.
This is rocks on glass.
I'm pretty sure a 3" sand floor
once saved a tank.
I once combined several of the above ideas in
a 7 foot long tank with a section of terrace, a piece
of wall, and a column, with yes, bridges, to what
I thought was good effect.
Be creative and have fun, and make sure it is
wedged together very well. An anemone, starfish,
or snail can be amazingly strong.
And now the piece d'resistance you've all been
waiting for. Again, if you take your time and
are careful you can be as elaborate as you like.
I call this one The Alamo ...
Sometimes it can help to make a model first.
The following design is excellent for a display of
prehistoric fish, I call it Stonehenge ...
Some of the best examples of live rock aquascapes
in reef tanks that I can recommend are on
our customer photos page. There you can
find some beautiful stunning, gorgeous aquascapes
that some fine folks have designed with our
live rock. The creativity shown there should
get your mind wandering in the right direction.
Some of them just plain amaze me with
their beauty, and resulting original
natural look and feel.
We hope you've enjoyed these ideas about
rock aquascapes and hopefully they will help
you come up with something better yourself,
which shouldn't be hard to do.